With care, hiking and hunting can mix safely

A hiker wears a bright orange hat in order to alert hunters of his presence during hunting season. (Provided photo — Spencer Morrissey)

With hunting right around the corner, many hikers decide to take a bit of time off. The time off is not only to partake in hunting, but in some cases hikers are nervous about being in the woods.

Hunting season isn’t a reason to become a couch potato. You still have to get out there to enjoy Mother Nature and do some serious hiking. Besides, this is a great time of year to be in the woods. The temperatures are much more moderate, no bugs to contend with and it’s easy to see deep into the woods with the lack of foliage.

There was a time when hiking during hunting season was an overwhelming fear for some. However, as I now see it, the negative tones are heard less and less.

Are the dangers still there? Are there fewer hunters? Why take a chance? These are all great questions and ones I hear the most and answer the most. Sure, there are people in the woods with loaded guns ready to fill their freezer. However, if you play it smart and take the proper precautions, you should have nothing to worry about.

As far as the hunter population, I would guess there are fewer hunters the woods. Hunting seems to be becoming a lost hobby. Fish and game club members are decreasing, and many are discounting memberships to encourage people to join.

As far as taking a chance, that’s an odd question. Hunters don’t want an interaction any more than you do.

Do you want to hike or not? The chance you are taking is somewhat dependent on the preparation you take to be safe. Hunting season has never stopped me from playing in the great outdoors, and I don’t figure it ever will.

I have seen hunters or tracks of hunters many times in the woods while bushwhacking. Many times I am sure I have even walked by them without knowing it; but I bet they saw me.

In the few times I have met hunters I have never had an issue, always pleasantries. I have even had a couple give me tips about what not to wear and what to do in prime hunting areas. I would like to share those with you today and a bit more.

I don’t want to see you being an armchair mountaineer during this finest season for exploring. I want to see you out and about to enjoy the fall, the foliage and early winter.

Location is everything

In many areas of higher hiker population you are limited in the probability of seeing a hunter. On the trail to Marcy Dam or the trail up Algonquin, for example, there is a very slim chance. You will have a better chance on the trails in the western Adirondacks, South Meadow, northern Adirondacks and other less-populated hiking areas.

Many hunters will use the trails to access prime hunting locations, but not necessarily hunt from the trails (both of which are legal, by the way).

If you bushwhack during hunting season, you must dress properly and follow many guidelines to be safe. Remember that deep in the bush is where most hunters are. I can’t guarantee that you will see a hunter while bushwhacking, but you not be expected by them.

Dress for success

This is the most important piece of safety equipment you can have. Wear bright colors like red, blaze orange and florescent colors and wear lots of them. Small patches of bright colors don’t work as well. The bright colors need to be seen from all directions and from a distance, not just when you happen to be standing the right way or nearby.

Your outer layer should be the bright color. If you shed that outer layer, your next layer better be just as noticeable.

Make sure your clothing doesn’t have any white hanging from it. The white can resemble a tail of a deer and your constant movement makes you stick out like a sore thumb. This also goes for that white hat you have kicking around. In fact, just keep any clothing that might resemble fur (black, brown, white, etc.) at home.

Your backpack should also be a bright color if you have it available. Don’t go out and buy a bright red pack just for hunting season; if your outer layer is bright enough, just make sure your pack doesn’t cover it up too much. If needed, tie a red kerchief from your pack for an accent.

Think about a bear bell if you can stand the constant ringing; tie a bear bell from yourself someplace. This constant sound helps in identifying yourself. This however, might make your hiking partner to want to shoot you.

Four-legged partners

This is a tough one. Essentially, you should leave your dog at home during hunting season. In the very least, have your pet leashed at all times with no exceptions, even when stopped.

Your dog should have on a bear bell just in case they get away from you. They should also be dressed as you are, in bright colors.

Hiking in groups

This is a great way to protect you and others; safety in numbers they say. Hiking in a group of two or more creates more noise and the racket of the constant chatter of conversation carries quite some distance in an otherwise quiet forest.

Where and when

Don’t limit yourself on where to go, but realize that less populated areas might attract more deer and essentially more hunters. Most hunters are seen within a few miles of a road, camp, lean-to or trailhead. The farther back you go, the less chance of contact you will have.

This goes for time of day as well. The earlier you go, the more apt you’ll be to run into a hunter.

Easements

There are many hiking easements out there, but just as many hunting easements. Very few places restrict hiking during hunting season, but some do exist. Be aware of those locations if you were to consider going there.

Again I want to emphasis that hiking and hunting DO mix. Respect one another and expect that you will meet up with one another on some occasion. Most meet-ups can be a simple wave to one another and a quiet pass by.

In short, get out and play and leave the worry at home.

COMMENTS